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‘Phantom’ is introduced to NCC stage

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 4; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 to 7; and 2 p.m. Nov. 6 to 7

Where: Pfeiffer Hall, 310 E. Benton Ave., Naperville

How much: $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors

Contact: 630-637-7469 or visit www.northcentralcollege.edu/showtix

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



The music of the night will ring through Pfeiffer Hall as North Central College students present Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterwork “The Phantom of the Opera” Nov. 4 to 7.

“Phantom” is the longest-running musical in Broadway history. The rights for production were recently made available for educational institutions, and Brian Lynch, North Central’s fine arts director, immediately seized the opportunity.

“We will be one of the first schools in the country to do it,” Lynch said. “I jumped at the chance because I knew we had the talent pool to do it here. I thought it would challenge our students and be a newer work that they would love to do,” Lynch is directing and choreographing the show.

The musical is composed by Webber, with lyrics by Charles Hart and additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, and is based on the novel “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra” by Gaston Leroux. It is the story of Christine, a beautiful, innocent soprano in the chorus of the Paris Opera House. She hears a voice, which she mistakenly believes to be the “Angel of Music.” In reality, it’s no angel but a masked, disfigured madman lurking in the opera house’s catacombs. Erik, or, “The Phantom of the Opera,” has reigned terror over the opera house and its inhabitants and has extorted money from the managers for years.

Erik/The Phantom falls madly in love with Christine, and devotes himself to making her the star of the Paris Opera House in a vain hope that she would return his love. His plan backfires when, as Christine takes the spotlight in “Think of Me,” her childhood friend Raoul recognizes her and the pair reconnect. Seething with jealously, the Phantom kidnaps Christine, and turmoil ensues.

Lynch has a cast of 36, and the pivotal roles of Christine and Carlotta are double-cast.

“We have the talent to do it, and I wanted to rest their voices a bit. And now I’ve got built-in understudies.”

Too much talent, he said, “is a very good problem to have. We have other people who could have done the parts too — that’s how deep the talent pool is. I’ve got an incredible cast.”

The cast is handling the challenging show with aplomb, he said.

“From the person with to the smallest role to my Christines and Phantoms and Raouls, everyone is attacking this show,” he said. “It’s nice for a director to have the cast show up early for rehearsals.”

This show is selling better than any show ever done at NCC, Lynch said.

A live orchestra almost entirely composed of students will be accompanying the actors, providing the famous score.

Angie Snodgrass, a senior from Naperville majoring in performance theater, is double-cast as Christine.

“It’s definitely nerve-racking and challenging, playing such an iconic role,” she said. “People who have seen the show multiple times have expectations for Christine, and people who haven’t seen the show know of Christine and know how dynamic she is supposed to be. I’m not going to make everybody happy, but I bring what I have to Christine and make her as unique as I can, and do Andrew Lloyd Webber justice and bring her to life as he intended.”

She played Juliet in North Central’s version of “Romeo and Juliet,” so she knows what it’s like playing such an iconic role. However, this role requires a lot of demanding vocal work. It’s one thing to be familiar with the songs — as she was — and another to be able to sing them well and in character.

“It’s challenging to be able to know them well enough to add a layer of character. There are a lot of words and a lot of music,” she said. “It’s been a fun challenge, and I’ve learned so much about music (and) about the process of the theater.”

Being double cast has been beneficial, she said.

“I’ve been able to develop my own Christine while watching another very talented young woman making her own Christine.”

Audiences, she said, are in for a treat no matter which cast they see.

“They can expect to be moved by the music and the story in general,” she said. “It’s such a powerful story of love. There are several different love stories going on. They can expect to be moved; it’s a great spectacle of a show.”

Speaking of spectacle, Lynch has borrowed a chandelier from the Chicago Shakespeare Company for a pivotal plot point.

“At the end of Act 1, the Phantom is furious and he releases the chandelier and it comes crashing to the stage,” he said.

Don’t worry — the stage and the actors will be fine.

“The rigging company is insured for millions of dollars. No one’s getting hurt, it will be perfectly safe,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be very frightening and very effective.”

Webber’s musical version of “The Phantom of the Opera” premiered in London in 1986 and is still running at Her Majesty’s Theatre. It opened in New York City in 1988 and in January 2006 became Broadway’s longest-running show. A movie version starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum was released in 2004.

The principal parts for North Central’s “The Phantom of the Opera” are Tanner Smale of Elkhart, Ind., (Phantom); Angie Snodgrass and Grace Heimerl, Naperville (Christine); Garrett Lutz of Aurora (Raoul); Alyssa Digges of Urbana and Colleen O’Connor of Mesa, Ariz., (Carlotta); Matt Schluntz of Aurora (Piangi); Brad Morrison of St. Charles (Firmin); Brian Mengler of St. Charles (Andre); Aileen Rak of Shorewood (Giry); and Emma Van Ommeren of Lake Mills, Wis. (Meg).



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